Vocal communication in White-crested Laughingthrush

on 31st December 2009

A few years back, Lena Chow heard a flock of the usually loud discordant White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) singing softly on low branches at Bukit Batok Nature Park for at least 10-15 minutes.

“I’ve heard the subdued songs of a flock of White-crested Laughingthrushes, like they were whispering/whimpering to each other, most unlike their usual loud garrulous selves. Wonder if anyone else has heard this? I did a random search on the net, and found this article, suggesting that this quieter song could be their contact subsong,” writes Lena.

The article referred to by Lena is by S. Chinkangsadam & N. Sitasuwan of the Department of Biology, Chiang Mai University, Thailand. The two researchers studied the vocal communication of these laughingthrushes, recording their vocals to generate sonograms that were used to analyse for song patterns.

Two types of vocal communication were found, calls and subsongs. Subsongs are shorter and less complex in structure than true songs. Unlike true songs that are used to defend territories and to attract mates, the two subsongs detected in this case were used in mobbing other flocks or species that approach food source and to keep in touch with one another in flight and during flocking. The four types of calls detected were for alert, alarm, excitement and begging.

The soft ‘song’ that Lena heard may well be a contact subsong.

Image by Lena Chow.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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